June 28 is Paul Bunyan Day. The day we fondly remember the adventures of Paul Bunyan, a giant lumberjack of impressive skill. A man who carved some of the greatest natural monuments in North America at will. A man whose massive size—and appetite—are the stuff of legends. Now Paul Bunyan as we know him never really existed—many consider him a legend of “fakelore” as opposed to folklore, but we’ll get to that later. We still can’t help but have a great deal of admiration for someone whose hunger was so great, his camp stove covered an acre. Being a man after our own hearts, it should come to no surprise that one of Paul Bunyan’s favorite meals was pancakes. So to celebrate this giant among giants, and of course our mutual love for flapjacks, we present our favorite pancake recipe: the Big Bunyan Slapjack Sandwich.
BIG BUNYAN SLAPJACK SANDWICH
This thing’s got pancakes for sure, but also incorporates bacon and cheese and all the things you want in your face before heading out to create your own legendary tales of bigness.
What to use
How to use it
PRO-TIP: Be adventurous and cure your own bacon for these flapjack sandwiches. Paul Bunyan would cure his own bacon.
HE'S A LUMBERJACK AND HE'S OKAY
The legend of Paul Bunyan is almost as big as the man himself. As the story goes, Paul was a force to be reckoned with even as a newborn: it took five storks to deliver the already sizable baby; when he laughed and clapped, the windows shattered; he sawed the legs of his parents’ bed in the middle of the night (giant and wily!).
As an older giant lumberjack, he created the Grand Canyon when he dragged his axe behind him and the Great Lakes were formed thanks to his best bud, Babe the Blue Ox, needing a giant sip of water. Along with Babe and his other favorite pal, Johnny Inkslinger, Paul would take on giant mosquitoes, rains that lasted for months and basically anything that came along. He was a giant, folks.
Naturally, a man of this size had a humongous appetite. In addition to his gigantic camp stove, his hotcake griddle was so large, men had to strap on massive sides of bacon (or hams, depending on the story you read) as skates to grease it. That’s some serious pan-caking.
So where did all these stories come from? Is Paul Bunyan for real? Is he man or myth? Is it live or is it Memorex? Let us investigate. Well, about Paul at least.
TALL MAN OR TALL TALE?
There are a few different stories swirling around about Mr. Bunyan’s origin. Some historians think he is based in part on a real life human lumberjack named Fabian Fournier, a French-Canadian timberman who joined a logging crew in Michigan after the Civil War. Fabian was a biggun for his day: at six feet tall, he towered over most men. He was said to have giant hands and enjoyed drinkin’ and fightin’, just like everyone. He was also rumored to have two sets of teeth, you know, like a shark, not just like everyone. Saginaw Joe, as he came to be called (so long Fabian!), was eventually murdered—I guess those two sets of teeth weren’t as formidable as one might assume—but his boisterous life and his flair for logging resulted in tales of old Joe being shared all over.
If you don’t like that version, how about one based on another French-Canadian lumberman, this one named Paul Bon Jean. He earned his big bad reputation in the Papineau Rebellion of 1837, when loggers and other fellows in St. Eustache, Canada rebelled against the British regime. The French pronunciation of Bon Jean likely evolved not into Bon Jovi, which is probably something we all wished, but into Bunyan, so some believe the legend was born that way.
There are other hypotheses that don’t suggest the man was real, but come from the etymology of the name itself: Bunyan is derived from the Old French “bugne,” which refers to a large lump or swelling (maybe not the most complementary origin story); or the fact that Bunyan is pronounced similarly to the Québécois "bon yenne!" expressing surprise or astonishment. One can imagine yelling such a thing when stumbling upon a giant man and his giant ox.
And of course there are those who don’t believe in Bunyan at all, citing the fact that the most stories about him are almost completely devoid of elements that have any base in folklore. Fact or fiction? You be the judge. But if you’re of the skeptical variety, let’s just hope you don’t run across one of his massive descendants in a dark alley.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
No matter how the legend began, the stories of Paul Bunyan’s superhuman adventures spread like crazy. The first recorded mention of him was from 1904 and the first Paul Bunyan story was printed in 1906 in a local newspaper in Oscoda, Michigan. From there, you can find Paul Bunyan in poems—a Bunyan-themed poem was printed in 1912 in American Lumberman magazine—an ad campaign for the Red River Lumber Company, pamphlets, both children’s and adult books and even an operetta. And there you have it, Paul Bunyan as household name, an outdoorsy folk figure turned national legend. We should all be so lucky.
Unlike Paul Bunyan’s backstory, the history of pancakes is undisputed. And it goes much further back than you might expect. Stone Age cooks made flour from cattails and ferns which was probably mixed with water and then baked. It may not have looked like our modern pancake, still the flapjack was born.
There is evidence of pancakes in ancient Greece and Rome because those folks were no fools and knew good food when they saw it. Elizabethans also recognized the wonders of the pancake, as did the American colonists, who dug into “Johny Cakes” and “Hoe Cakes.”
Pancakes—or flapjacks, slapjacks, whatever you prefer—show no sign of losing favor any time soon. Which is fine by us. So get griddling and invite your pals over for a hearty breakfast worthy of a legend. And don’t forget the coffee